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What makes an oriental rug valuable?

Posted in: All Rugs Appraisals & Value Oushak rugs Persian rugs Rugs: The Basics
There simply is not a single determining factor that constitutes a valuable Oriental rug. People often talk about the number of knots per square inch, but that is not even one of the most important factors appraisers consider in determining the value of an Oriental rug. – Christin Terrell, USPAP Certified Appraiser, Owner at King’s House Oriental Rugs

Below is a list of considerations for determining an Oriental rug’s quality and value. The knot type and size is an aspect of determining the quality of a rug’s construction, but there are many other factors to consider. The number of knots per square inch alone does not answer many questions.

1) Age Relative to Condition–The main consideration used in valuing antique Oriental rugs.

Age relative to condition applies to antique and vintage Oriental rugs.  Due to the nature of limited supply in old and one-of-a-kind handmade rugs, this can be one of the most important aspects that we as certified appraisers consider when appraising a rug’s value.  The older the rug is and the better condition the rug is in, then generally the higher the value.  There are certain rugs that hold enough value that even if they are in need of some repair or restoration, the overall value of the rug may be well worth the investment.

2) Country of Origin

The country of origin is of particular importance in both the new and antique rug categories.  The labor prices for the different countries can vary so widely that a new Oushak rug made in India is not typically going to have the same costs or value associated with it that a new Oushak from Turkey would have in terms of rug value in a brand new rug.

The country of origin impacts the values of antique rugs too. A particular region, village or tribe may be renowned for their craftsmanship or beauty during the time that the carpet was made. The Turkish village of Usak is in Central Anatolia and they have been weaving Usak carpets there for hundreds of years. For instance, we have in our shop an Oushak carpet that was woven in the Usak village, circa 1900, 11×19, $38,000.  This oushak carpet can command such a high price because there are so few in large sizes remaining in good condition.  This rug should continue to hold its value and increase with proper maintenance.  In addition to the fact that Turkish labor is more expensive, these higher quality new rugs go through more time consuming weaving and finishing processes like hand spinning the wool and dying the wool in small batches than most other types of new rugs. The fact that an Usak rug is authentic (actually made in the Usak village) adds to its potential long term value.


3) Materials and Craftmanship

The materials and craftsmanship are important considerations since these are factors that are involved not only in the quality of the construction but also in a carpet’s esthetic appeal.  The most common materials for Oriental rug construction are wool, cotton, silk, metal threads, goat hair and camel hair.  There also many types of materials labeled silk in newer rugs like banana silk, cactus silk and even some synthetics like viscose. It is also important to understand that not all wool is the same. There are significant differences that you can see and feel in the grade of the wool that is used and the way it is spun before it is woven.  The higher elevation areas tend to raise sheep with more luxurious coats which translates into a more luxurious rug pile. Hand spinning the wool versus machine spinning the wool makes a softer and more natural looking pile with a nicer handle to the rug.

Christin Terrell, owner of King's House Oriental Rugs, travels to Turkey several times a year to visit each of the facilities that play a part in making a custom rug, right down to inspecting the newly shorn wool. Quality is of the utmost importance to King's House.

Christin Terrell, owner of King’s House Oriental Rugs, travels to Turkey several times a year to visit each of the facilities that play a part in making a custom rug, right down to inspecting the newly shorn wool. Quality is of the utmost importance to King’s House.

4) Dyes used in the construction

The natural dyes are consistently preferred to the synthetic chromium dyes for their natural beauty.  When rugs are dyed using natural dyes the colors appear less intense and saturated.  They are more complicated to make and require more expert knowledge than the synthetic dyes. The added labor, knowledge and scarcity of these experts adds value to a rug that has been woven with naturally dyed wool.

5) Knot Density and Structure

The art of Oriental rug weaving has been historically passed down through families from mother to daughter.  Today weaving patterns are largely still traceable geographically although there are some countries where labor is less expensive that have trained weavers to tie knots that are not indigenous to the area where they are now being made.  While knot size is a consideration, the more important consideration is the density of the wool and how the knots are tied.  One quick way to tell some about the durability of an Oriental rug is to feel the handle of it.  If it is very loosely woven it is going to feel very flimsy in your hand it is not going to wear as well as a rug with a sturdier but still supple handle.

6) One-of-a Kind Hand Knotted Rugs vs Programmed Rugs

Like any art form the more rare the more valuable.  There is another category of handmade rugs that we refer to in the industry as “programmed”.   These are rugs that can be ordered in a variety of sizes and certain color ways.  Some of these Oriental rugs are as well crafted and beautiful as the one-of-a-kind rugs.  They differ mostly from the one-of-a-kind pieces in their potential long term value and sometimes artistic appeal. One-of-a kind rugs whether old or new should be the better long term investment.

The quality of an Oriental rug is not determined by any one factor alone but rather a combination of materials, construction, visual appeal determined by the weaving technique, type of materials used and ply of those materials. There is no magic tell tale factor like knot counting that can solely determine the quality or value of an Oriental rug.

For interested buyers who want to know more, I’ve compiled a list of recommended reading.

Considering having your rug appraised? Here are 3 things you need to consider.



“Each rug has a story.” To Christin Terrell, it’s more than just a clever line—it’s the reason she comes into work every day. Because where the rest of us just see rich, beautiful colors and intricate patterns, Christin sees every superstition, every ancient custom, and every silent prayer woven into the rugs of King’s House. The beauty of their origins is what Christin loves most about our rugs: “Immersing yourself in the where, the who, and the why … I can’t imagine anything more beautiful.”

The King’s House buying experience goes well beyond simply rolling up a rug and sending you on your way. After all, an Oriental rug is an investment and an heirloom work of art. First, we offer complimentary  consultations by appointment: that way, we can help you find the perfect rug for your home and lifestyle, based on architecture, furnishings, measurements—and, of course, the style you’re seeking. Plus, we also allow our local clients to take rugs on approval before making their final purchase decision, including free delivery and installation of the rug in your home. 

King’s House is also proud to offer USPAP-certified appraisals, specialized rug cleaning, repair, and museum-quality restorations. If you’re interested, give us a call at 205-244-1933 or send us an email.



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